The Hamburg tussle: working around Donald Trump at G20

The gathering in Hamburg of the G20, a group of twenty developed and developing countries, last week was not unlike a large family event: some catching up, some patching up, and that unpredictable, rich uncle who needs to be managed and kept in good humour. The success of summits such as this should be judged with regard to the emerging global context: with the world’s most powerful country, the United States led by a President who wants to redefine the world order in narrow transactional terms; with economies changing due to digitisation and automation; with the strength of a country’s electoral process increasingly tied to its cybersecurity; with migration on an unprecedented scale; and with terrorism decentralised and dispersed. The G20 meetings in Germany reflected all this, either through the dynamics between leaders or in the wording of official statements that emerged from them. The summit also provided a much-needed opportunity for bilateral meetings, some of which went well beyond the ordinary renewal of commitments among countries. The meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was their first after the election hacking scandal and Mr. Trump’s inauguration, while the interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping came amid the face-off between the Indian and Chinese armies in Doklam.

Most remarkable was the fact that the G20 managed to pull together a joint communique at all, given Mr. Trump’s recalcitrance on trade and the environment and the tension between interlocutors. It is reported that French President Emmanuel Macron was pivotal in bringing about unanimity by getting the U.S. on board. Yet the final statement did not hide the fact that U.S. policy currently runs against the global consensus, noting America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement but declaring that the other 19 countries recognise the pact is “irreversible”. Even so, a sentence about the U.S. saying it would help countries access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently struck an odd note. In terms of trade, members committed to fight protectionism while recognising “legitimate trade defence instruments”. While the G20 dynamics may have been strained, world leaders have clearly moved up the learning curve on how to handle Mr. Trump since his first international tour of West Asia and Europe in May, which saw rifts over the U.S.’s commitment to NATO, climate change and trade. The scale and violent nature of the protests in Hamburg too was notable, with tens of thousands showing up, and several hundred police officers injured. These were yet another reminder that all is not well with the world, and that the undercurrents of discontent developing countries have long been familiar with have now flowed west. The G20 and other international groupings must work to mitigate their underlying causes through dialogue and responsive measures.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Sep 29, 2022 6:10:22 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-hamburg-tussle/article59781183.ece